Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#027 Best Place to Buy Athletic Gear

A few weeks ago, I wandered into See Jane Run, #027 Best Place to Buy Athletic Gear.

If you have never heard of See Jane Run, it is a really cool store.  They focus on athletic gear and focus exclusively on women.  They facilitate events, lead jogging groups, and sponsor marathons, among other things.

I didn't end up buying anything, but I was pleasantly surprised that they also carried a lot of cute dresses and clothes that would be good for everyday wear and not just working out.  My problem was that the quality of the clothing is almost TOO good for me.  I didn't want to pay a premium for something nice when average would work just fine.  I wouldn't say this store is overpriced, but it absolutely does not fall on the cheap spectrum of clothing stores.
I think this store is totally inspirational.  If you are trying to gather motivation for a new workout routine or want to be more gung-ho about fitness, I would make a pit stop here.  I think it would breathe some new life into your workout routine and give you the boost you are looking for.  Adorable workout gear certainly makes it easier to get the motivation to get fit.

The employees here were excellent. I can't stand when employees hover around me and stare at me while I shop, or are too intent on asking if I need help with anything.  It makes me uncomfortable and I just want to shop/wander in peace!  They let us do our own thing, but also made it obvious they were willing to help if need be. 

There aren't many reviews on yelp.com, but from what I found, See Jane Run is renowned for their customer service.  In fact, one cool feature is they can analyze your gait in-store and recommend shoes that would work good for you.  They even have a treadmill in the store (maybe this is the gait-analyzer) that I thought was a great idea for testing out the shoes.

See Jane Run has a half-marathon they sponsor in Seattle, Boise, Alameda [CA], and Austin.  The marathon is called "I run for chocolate and champagne" which I think is so cute.
Sadly, this year has already passed for Boise (June).  The only one coming up is in Austin in October, but maybe if I start getting my fitness on, a half marathon would be a good thing to shoot for!  I honestly can't imagine running a 5K, but I think having a tangible goal would totally make running easier.  To be honest, I still get kinda worried running (this makes it sound like I run a lot....it has been once).  I feel like I need a giant dog to protect me or something. In the meantime, I stick to lots of yoga.
If I did decide to run a marathon, you better believe it would be this one! You get chocolate tastings, complimentary champagne, a commemorative champagne glass filled with chocolates, sport massages, and finishers food. 

In closing, check out See Jane Run if you are serious about exercise or want a jump start to dig into a new routine.  You will feel totally comfortable inside the store, and the staff is helpful and friendly.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back in action


Whew, been very busy the last few days.  Tonight I'll do a quick recap so I can justify my absence, and tomorrow I will write some more reviews.  My friend is coming to town this weekend, so there should be pleny of fun activities to come. 

I went to see The Princess Bridge in the Idaho Botanical Gardens.  I have talked about this movie series before -- it costs $5/movie, you can bring your own food/drink (even alcohol) and it is outside.  It is sooo much fun.  The next movie, Grease showing on a Friday night.  I am working on getting the crew to dress up, so we will see how successful that ends up being.

Anyway, as my contribution to the group feast, I made roasted red pepper hummus and brought a variety of vegetables.  I also brought a bottle of white wine which I got to trade my buddies for in order to have some of their even TASTIER red wine.  The reds were both sparkly (one was called New Age if you have heard of that) and SO GOOD.

Thursday I went to volunteer at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  The night was sponsored by my work, so all of the volunteers were affiliated with my company.   Normal tickets start out around $30 and I got to watch the entire play (Taming of the Shrew) for free.

I thought when I signed up I was going to have to help clean up some gigantic stadium, but the venue is fairly small and intimate.  My seat was on the hillside, which is the general admission section of the amphitheater.  This area is first come, first serve and you stake out your spot by spreading out blankets.  I had to get there before the house even opened (at 5:30) so I got prime seating.

For snacks, I brought a quiznos sandwich (chicken harvest - so yummy) and apple slices with a yogurt dip.  I tried to make a tasty dip, but to be honest, it wasn't very good. I have yet to master the art of toasting nuts, so my walnuts made the entire dip taste a bit burnt. 

All I had to do in order to enjoy a wonderful evening was spend 1.5 hours ushering people, clean up trash during intermission, and about fifteen minutes picking up trash at the end.

Totally worth it and totally amazing.  I LOVED Taming of the Shrew!  The temperature was also perfect and the venue was gorgeous. 

A few coworkers and I went to a work gathering to start the night off.  As my contribution, I brought Doughnut Muffins (discovery: they taste better the second day).  We arrived fashionably late, when most of the food was already nibbled on, so I didn't think there was much hope for the muffins to get eaten.  However, about half were eaten and I considered that a success.

There were deep-fried oreos there, and it was awesome to finally try those...I think they would be better fresh though.  I have to say based on what I had, I prefer normal oreos!  One thing I can't stop thinking about was this phenomenal dip.  From first impressions it didn't look like anything fancy but the ranch concoction was the best ranch I have ever had.  Even the bread tasted like some sort of homemade rosemary bread.  SO FANTASTIC.

The person I went with brought Chocowine as her contribution, and I was thrilled when we picked it out at the store.  I have always wanted to try this stuff -- it is supposedly chocolate mixed with red wine.  I loved it (over ice!) but it doesn't taste like wine at all.  It tastes more like a Bailey's type drink, but I would totally get it again and it is 14% alcohol.

Friday night was also the night I got some weird allergic reaction (different than the one on Saturday night) and my forehead/chin/chest/hands all have weird little bumps on them.  Yes, they are still there.  Ugh.

Friday night I spent the night at a friends house and got to wake up next to their lovely cat.  I haven't been around a cat in awhile, and I love cats, so I was happy when I got to cuddle up with it.

Our host made us a delicious breakast of banana pancakes, bacon, eggs and watermelon. We layed around for quite some time, and eventually I went home and layed around some more :)  Once I gathered the energy, gossiped with a middle school friend (thanks for the intel, Anna :), and finally showered by 6:00 pm, I was ready to drive up to Garden Valley and meet my boyfriend.

It was fun up there, like it always is.  We watched Hall Pass, which is a hilarious movie (a bit raunchy though).  I drank dark rum and figured out that can be added to the list of alcohol I am absolutely allergic to.  Last time I had a rum drink at their house, I got the allergic reaction, but it can happen a lot so I wasn't confident it was the rum.  This time, it happened IMMEDIATELY and I have no doubts that is what caused it.  However, I have drank Bacardi many times before, so I think it was the float of Myer's Dark Rum on the top. 

This allergic reaction was swift and a bit more intense than usual.  I might have imagined it, but I swear it was a bit hard for me to breathe.

My boyfriend and I headed down to Boise and had an awesome day.  We didn't leave Garden Valley until around 2:30, so it wasn't until 4:00ish that we made it to the apartment.  We went to the Boise Coop, where I picked up Stroopwaffels.  I am REGRETTING that decision.  They are these delicious little waffle-looking things filled with a caramel-y type inside.  I was hoping he would devour them, but that wasn't the case and now I have been getting ill off of too much Stroopwaffel consumption.

We went to dinner at McGrath's Fish House, which was fun because I had never been there before.  The place had a great vibe, and my boyfriend's food was fantastic.  He had the Bay City Salmon which is salmon, stuffed with crab, covered in lobster sauce. TO DIE FOR! We also both got amazing clam chowder with sourdough bread.  I had the Macadamia Basa and it was okay...it was honestly a bit plain.  I would totally go back, but I wouldn't get what I had.  It was supposed to come with a pineapple sauce, and our waitress almost dropped our meal off the tray, so I think the sauce might have flung off, making it a bitless flavorful.

After that, we went to Final Destination Five.  If you like the Final Destination movies, go see it! I thought it was perfect.  Pretty gross and kept me guessing the entire time.

After that, we loaded up on pickled asparagus, ate our stroopwaffels, and watched Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares for the perfect end to the night.

So there you have it -- my excuses for why I haven't written in awhile.  I know most people interested in this would likely only be stalkers, so apologies if you didn't want to know every single detail of my weekend :) Back to regular programming tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#025 Best Place to Buy Designer Fashions

The next few days are going to be busy with lots of fun and exciting things to do :)  Tomorrow a few of us from work are going to watch The Princess Bride at the Idaho Botanical Gardens.  It is so fun to go, and now that I invested in a reuseable snow cone cup, I can get snow cones for $2.  We are also having a bit of a picnic.  I think I am going to make hummus and bring a bunch of vegetables.  So far the line up also includes pasta salad and orange-soy riblets, so I think it will be a very tasty evening.

On Thursday, I am volunteering at the Shakespeare Outdoor Festival.  They said we can expect to stay until 11:30ish (OMG) which is a bit late for me on a work week, but then it's Friday so I won't be toooo behind on sleep.  I actually think my problem might be I go to bed TOO early, so this will be a great experiment.  This is also an opportunity to bring your own food, and I am contemplating making lemon-yogurt fritters.  I am a bit worried they won't be as good the next day (I have to make them the night before) but I love little things to snack on during both plays and movies.  Have any of you seen The Taming of the Shrew?  I don't think I am familiar with it, althought I know I probably should be.

In other news, I love rainy, dreary weather and now that I have a "real job" I am looking forward to fall weather even more (however, I do NOT love snow.  We are talking RAIN solely).  I have been eyeing this scarf for a while now, and I have a 20% coupon+free shipping, so I think I am going to finally cave in and buy it.  What do you think? I think it is the PERFECT scarf for Idaho! I also want to do a home improvement project and hang hooks in my room so I can display my scarfs come cooler weather.  I tend to forget all the options I have, so I would love to have them all staring me in the face.

While I have you here, a quick review on #025 Best Place to Find Designer Fashions: Fancy Pants. It is located right downtown, which makes it really easy to find from the various parking garages scattered around in Boise.

I feel like I cannot possibly be the best judge of a designer fashion store.  As you can see above, I consider an American Eagle scarf a splurge and I have been dreaming of a $60 sweater for a few weeks.  I really don't spend much on clothes and never really have.

For those who are fashion fanatics, this seems to be the place to go.  Every review I have seen refers to the shop owners by their first names, which I think is really cool.  It is almost like customers have personal shoppers willing to help them with exactly what they need, and of course that type of service comes at a premium.  I think Fancy Pants is so popular for those craving fashion because it offers what most of Boise does not - designer goods, hard to find brands, a rotating selection, and an overall love of fashion.  From what I have heard, the designer denim collection is to die for.

I thought this store was adorable and could have easily bought the majority of the clothes, but it was SO EXPENSIVE.  This isn't the fault of the boutique owners as it is simply the name of the game, but seriously.  I thought I would be able to go in and wander around, find something on sale, and leave a happy camper.  As soon as I walked in, I realized I had made a mistake and was a bit sheepish.  I pretended to look around and I am sure it was apparent I had no intention of buying, so I quickly made my way out of there!

I think it is great Boise has a store like this, but I won't be shopping there until I get a few promotions :)  In the meantime, I will enjoy salivating over things at Macy's and waiting for coupons.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Braised Winter Greens with Chickpeas

I have been trying to experiment even more with food lately, because I got to thinking the other day...My boyfriend got me a cookbook with 1,000 recipes in it.  Even if I made something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. it would take me almost three years to make it through the cookbook!  I then started thinking there really aren't that many meals in a year (365 dinners doesn't really sound like THAT much) and each one is an opportunity to eat something new, tasty, and delicious.

With that running through my head, I wanted to try a new vegetable but I also didn't want anything too extravagant to make because I am trying to save up some money for new clothes.  I settled on "Braised Winter Greens with Chickpeas, Onions and Garlic" from Orangette.

The recipe is clearly spelled out on the website, so I'll just take you through what I made...

I settled on kale as my winter green of choice and bought one and a half pounds of it at the grocery store.  In fact, I bought it about two weeks ago and it was still in decent condition -- kale lasts a very long time in the fridge!

I separated the kale leaves from the ribs by running my knife along the inseam of each piece.  After that, I rinsed the kale and left it in a colander to dry a bit.  The recipe says you actually want a bit of water to stick to the leaves, so don't worry about drying it too much.  Then, lay the leaves on top of each other, a few at a time, and slice them into quarter inch pieces.  I didn't worry about precision too much here.  Just cut it up however you prefer.

Next it was time to dice an onion.  I used yellow, as that is my go-to onion (and usually the cheapest at the store).  The recipe calls for half an onion minced, but I used the whole thing and left bigger pieces.

I heated up three tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan (pick a big pan and it will be easier) over medium heat.  Once it was sizzling, I added the onion and a teaspoon of minced garlic.  The recipe says to saute for 10 minutes...Around five minutes I realized mine was BURNING so I would recommend lowering your temperature significantly.

I was really bummed I burned the onions and garlic, and I got distracted and left it to sit for a bit.  When I came back, I tasted it to see how burnt it was and WOW! It was fantastic.  The garlic and onion had carmelized and was soooo delicious.  I am sad to say I ended up eating ALL of the onion and garlic prior to cooking the kale :) Whoops.

Once the onion and garlic was devoured, I drained a can of chickpeas and added it to a new pot of sizzlin' olive oil (obviously if you didn't eat your food prematurely, add the chickpeas to your oil/garlic/onion mixture). I then added the kale in bits and pieces.  It doesn't shrink like normal lettuce does, which is why I think it is important to use a big frying pan.  However, it does lose a little of it's bulk, so you can add it in chunks and let it settle before you add more.  The recipe says to season with salt, but I didn't add any.

Then, lower the heat (I went all the way to low) and cover, cooking for fifteen minutes.  I stirred my occasionally. After that, remove from heat and add 1 and a half teaspoons of lemon juice.  I went a bit overboard and used an ENTIRE lemon, but I love lemon juice and I think the tangy taste is what made it so good.

I don't know what it was about this dish, but I found it seriously tasty.  I made four servings and they are all gone now!  I think it got better after sitting for about six hours because the leaves soaked up my lemon juice and had a nice tang to them.

Whether you try this out or not, hopefully this can be inspiration to try out a new vegetable or food at the super market.  I have never tried kale before and it was great -- it cooks much better than spinach or other lettuces because it doesn't get all wilty and limp.  It retained its shape but still had that great earthy flavor.  Mmmmmmm.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Spruce-Up

I am not writing much on this post because I have a bathtub, chilled white wine, and nice clean sheets waiting for me, but I spent today sprucing up the place and taking a personal day.  For me, that means lots of yoga and reading, with some cooking sprinkled in.  I tried to cook up some kale, and I'll recap that in my next post (accidently ate ALL the garlic and onion mixture before I was ready to cook the kale...whoops).

I FINALLY hung up my prayer stick today.  I feel stupid for not doing it sooner, because it literally took one thumb tack.  However, I did get out my measuring tape and find the middle of the wall, so I was feeling pretty handy.

It really pulls the room together and makes everything look much better.

I also spruced up my bedroom side table.

I bought some fake lilacs from the store and trimmed off all the leaves.  I didn't realize I would need wire cutters, so I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't cut the flowers like I wanted, but it will work for now.

The star is a little candle holder from my grandma that I filled with lavender.  Lavender is supposed to improve the quality of your sleep, plus I got a big bag for only $2 and I think it smells good.  It reminds of my favorite ice cream from back home: Honey Lavender.  YUM! Some people hate it and think it tastes like perfume, but I adore it.

I also picked up some items I have been meaning to get forever.  A new eyeliner, Black Cocoa powder (non dutch process cocoa powder that is actually very good for you), white balsalmic vinegar to try out, spicy brown mustard (also REALLY good for you -- I just discovered it has turmeric in it), truvia, and blueberries.  Sadly, I ate the entire thing of blueberries before I got home, but it was delicious.

Hope you all had a lovely Sunday.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jerk Chicken

For dinner tonight, I decided to make Jerk Chicken from a recipe in September 2011 Glamour.

The recipe is part of a feature from the girls at gastronomista.com, about how to "Be a Hostess in a Hurry." 

To make it simple for us all, they even have the recipe up on their website, here. You can see how to make the entire spread, and there is even a cute menu they made up.

I was super excited to make this chicken, because even though it sounds delicious, the ingredients I needed from the store cost around $5!  I had to pick up five limes (3 for $1), a bunch of green onions ($.69), a small yellow onion ($.80), and two habenero peppers ($.30).  I also bought a big thing of yogurt (about $3) and skewers.

To make the marinade, you toss almost all of the ingredients into a blender and blend.  The marinade is composed of:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lime juice (I prefer fresh and used five limes before I gave up juicing. I had almost a 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1/2 onion, finely chopped (I bought a small onion so I wouldn't have leftovers and used the whole thing)
8 green onions, finely chopped (I used one bunch = 6)
8 garlic cloves, peeled (aka four teaspoons minced garlic)
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger (I get the stuff in a jar, already minced/mushed)
2 tsp brown sugar (I omitted this)
2 tsp fresh or dried thyme [I used dried]
2 tsp allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers (to taste) seeded and finely chopped

All you have to do is place this in the blender.  I used my Magic Bullet (the pitcher shaped one) and was amazed how easily it all blended up.  Normally things take a bit of coaxing, but something about this mixture was very blendable.
*I don't like things very spicy (but am trying to be more adventurous) so I only used one habanero pepper.  After everything was mixed, the marinade tasted really spicy and I was glad I only used one.  However, after the chicken was cooked, most of the spice was gone.  I would recommend using both peppers and if you like things REALLY spicy, save some to put over the top when it is done cooking.

After that, all you need to do is defrost some chicken and cut it into "two inch" pieces.  Basically whatever you consider bite size.  Toss these into a big zip loc back, and pour in your marinade (I only used half and am saving half for some other use...) I also used chicken tenderloins instead of chicken breasts.  The tenderloins are much smaller and I used eleven, which made six skewers.  The recipe calls for eight chicken breasts, so choose your meat accordingly.

I let my chicken soak for exactly one hour because I couldn't wait any longer and was starving.  This is a great marinade because the flavor actually stays on the chicken (I have made some marinades that are quite some work and barely do anything to the flavor of the meat).

From there, simply take out the chicken and put it on the skewers.  I preheated the oven and it was ready by the time the skewers were assembled. The recipe says you can either grill for 20 minutes, or bake for 13-18 minutes at 350 degrees.  I don't have a grill, so I baked.  Also, make sure you oil the baking sheet prior to putting the chicken on.  After I had them all in place, I dumped the rest of the marinade over the chicken. I also flipped them over about half way through.  I cooked them for the whole 18 minutes and the chicken was so tender and delicious.

The recipe calls for serving this with Tzatziki sauce, which I struggled finding at the grocery store (does anyone know what aisle it is in???).  I know Tzatziki isn't that hard to make at home, but I didn't go to the effort of making it.  Instead, I ate my chicken with nonfat plain yogurt and it was great. If you want to make Tzatziki instead, allrecipes.come says you simply blend all the following ingredients in a blender (and ideally refrigerate at least one hour):

Tzatziki sauce
2 (8 ounce) containers plain yogurtGo make this chicken! It was one of the cheapest, easiest, and most delicious things I have ever had the pleasure of making.

2 cucumbers - peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 cloves garlic, peeled

Also, in other news, check out this massive bruise I got on my leg!
It hurts barely at all, so it is really pure show.  It actually happened a week ago, while we were cleaning out my college-house and where my brother move in.  My Dad and I had JUST moved a bed frame into the garage and had it resting against an arm chair.  I went to walk back up the stairs and bumped into it, causing it to trample the back of my legs :) I think the big circular part ust be from the knob of the frame, and the line going down is from one of the poles. 

Consider that my favor to you -- if my recipe made you too hungry, now that can ruin your appetite and give you a bit for your chicken to marinate and your appetite to return.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#045 Best Place to Get a Mani/Pedi

I think no matter when or where you move, you always have to go through the process of establishing your favorite new places.  For me, that involves finding "my" grocery store, gas station, coffee stand, restaurant, and of course -- salon.  I might be different than most in that I enjoy going to different hairdressers.  I am always pretty conservative when it comes to my hair, so finding new hairdressers guarantees the same hair cut always comes out a bit different each time.  I think I always hold out with a tiny hope that maybe *this* will be the person who can transform my hair into the fabulous style it was always meant to be.  This has yet to happen, but you never know, right?

In Moscow, I started by pulling up a directory of salons and beginning at the first one: A Heavenly Salon and Spa.  Very clever marketing to put an A in front of the name so they would end up first in the phone book!  I liked going there, but it wasn't life changing.  I went to the next, and eventually I ended up at Hair and Face.  This place was great.  I was always open for any stylist (you can usually book must faster that way) and they got a new one (Angie) who I genuinely looked forward to chatting with.

Then, my friend Chalayne said her hairdresser was looking to take on more clients, and I decided to give it a shot.  She cuts hair out of her home in Troy, which is about a thirty minute drive.  The drive was a pain, but it is a pretty drive and it is nice to be one-on-one with your hair dresser.  She also had the most adorable kids and the cutest dogs, so it was fun to go there.  Much more "homey" of a feeling.

To get to the point, I am now in a new town and have been trying to figure out where to get my hair cut.  I decided to do a combo of yelp and living social hunting to figure out where to go, and ended up choosing (after putting it off for waaay too many weeks) Graeber and Co #045 Best place to get a mani/pedi.  Yes, I realize a haircut is not a mani/pedi, but I really didn't feel like spending another $30 for a manicure or $40 for a pedicure!

According to yelp, Angie is a really great stylist.  I went in blind and didn't even know who I signed up for.  It ended up being a guy (not Angie!).  On the other hand, other reviews say that Carrie is terrible.  They also have some reviews saying the staff is a bit spacy, and can sometimes schedule things and then have appointments "disappear."  I didn't have any sort of problem, so I was pleased.  However, it was sort of awkward when I arrived.  They basically told me someone would be with me, and didn't show me where the waiting area was.  I akwardly stood in the entrance way, looking earnestly at each person who walked by.  Eventually one of the stylists took me to the waiting area, but I thought it was rather rude the girls at the counter didn't mention I could wait around the corner.

The hours at Graeber and Co are really great.  Not only are they open Saturdays, but they are also open until 7 pm Tuesday-Friday.  A hair cut ranges from $32-$65 (I think mine was $38?).  A shampoo/style is $20+ (not extra...just if you want only that and no hair cut).   They also offer a full salon with nails, facials, body care, massage, and waxing.  I wanted to get my eye brows waxed but there weren't any availabilities.

The one thing I can't stand when I get my haircut is when the hair stylist won't shut up about how dead/fried/dry my hair is.  OBVIOUSLY that is why I am getting a hair cut! Yes, I can understand a few comments.  But I have had some who go on and on and on and it drives me nuts.  Here, I didn't get too much of that. 

My hair stylist was actually quite nice.  The one thing he did that drove me crazy was he did act very superior...I decided to finally pay attention to how the hair stylist was doing my hair, in the hopes I would be able to re enact it at home.  To be fair, this meant I was asking a lot of questions and seemed very interested in buying product.  What really irritated me was when he asked what shampoo I used (hate that question; always feel like it is quite judgemental sounding).  I told him, and then to make it less awkward, asked what he would recommend.  He started rattling off really expensive brands, and I interjected with, "well is there anything at the drugstore you would recommend or can you even do that?" And he said there was NOTHING at the drugstore he would recommend (citing "you never know what is in that stuff, even plastic.").  I understand you get what you pay for, but there must be a lesser of two evils.  I have read numerous articles where high priced hair stylists recommend drugstore brands, so some suggestion would have been nice.

Overall, this place is great.  You do have to pay for parking ($2/hr) and I think it would be better if they validated it.  However, it was clean, stylish, and decently priced.  I always feel a bit out of place at salons, and they didn't go over the top to make me feel welcome, but no one was rude.  I don't think I will go back.  I might still be searching for that elusive hair stylist who makes my hair magical.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#020 Best Place to Stock Up on Survival Gear

I just got back from a dinner party and all the food in my belly is making me quite sleepy.  However, I am building up a big queue of things to post about, so wanted to say I made it to #020 Best Place to Stock Up On Survival Gear: Boise Army/Navy a few days ago.

It is officially located in Garden City, which made it a bit more difficult to get to.  It is only open til six during the week, so I had to go during the weekend.

I will make this post short and sweet, and promise to write more this weekend (I want to try out some bread pudding on Saturday!).  Boise Army/Navy is the place to go if you literally want to stock up on survival gear.  They have a TON of stuff and all of it looked quite legit/authentic.  They also have a big section of the store devoted to rafts, another devoted to guns, and another full of outdoor shoes.

My favorite was the aisles of cookware.  I was in HEAVEN! I had no idea there were so many options for outdoor cooking.  It made me want to buy a tent, buy all the gear, and go camping just so I had an excuse to cook outside.  It seemed so adorable to make tea in a cast iron tea kettle over a fire, while your little egg pan cooks eggs and corn roasts in tin foil.  Mmmmm delicious!

Is this even an egg pan?  I assumed it was.  Whatever it is, it looks badass.

sooo many adorable dishes!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Tonight I went to go see Crazy, stupid, love.  I LOVED it!  I think this is the perfect movie to go see by yourself.  It gets you thinking and there are some great twists.  It isn't the best date movie -- I think all that talk about love could get awkward.  It also is kinda intense at times, and so a group might prefer a comedy or horror movie.  However, if you want to go to a movie that gets your brain thinking, puts you on an emotional roller coaster, and leaves you feeling satisfied, Crazy, stupid, love might be your movie. 

I was going to swing by a doughnut shop to get a snack to bring in, but decided I needed to run by the Coop to get some wine and dates for a dinner party tomorrow.  While there, I got a pack of freeze dried raspberries and raspberry-lemonade.  The drink was okay...it was fizzy and tasty, but not the most delicious thing ever.  The raspberries were a perfect movie snack.  They were like candy (I prefer sour candy).  They were tart, crunchy, and there was a good amount.

As for the movie, it had an awesome cast.  I love, love, love Julianne Moore.

I also really like Steve Carrell in comedies.  It was nice to see him do a great job pulling off the more serious parts of the movie. 
I wasn't really feeling Ryan Gosling as some sexpot of a guy.  I don't know why, but I have never thought of him as super, super sexy.  However, by the end of the movie, I started to really like him in the role. I wonder why (just kidding).
I think the reason I really started to like him was the interaction between him and Emma Stone was adorable.

Anyway, go check it out if you have been on the fence.  I really liked it...it would also be a great movie to rent and curl up to watch on a rainy day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

#042 Best Fries

 I went to #042 Best Fries: Boise Fry Company (BFC) a few weeks ago and am finally getting around to writing about it.  Hopefully being in Boise this weekend will let me settle down and spend some time writing cool posts about exciting places.

Boise Fry Company is VERY unique and I think if anyone was being all tourist-y in Idaho, this would be the perfect place to go.  Whenever I tell someone not from Idaho that I am living from Idaho, I inevitably get some sort of potato comment and the BFC embraces the potato culture whole heartedly.  The funny thing about potatoes is we really can't deny it.  They are everywhere! 

This place is pretty tiny when you walk in.  It is also located in a pretty crappy looking strip mall (if you take Broadway and go past Front/Carls Jr. etc, you will see it on the left).  There are a few tables outside, which help expand the space on a nice day, but I think you can't help but feel crowded whilst waiting for your order.

The mission of the BFC is to provide you with the most incredible fries, burgers and service a company can offer.  I don't eat hamburgers so I cannot attest to the quality of the burgers, but can totally say they have incredible fries and service.

You should know by now I am very picky when it comes to service.  I have always said I do my jobs with a smile, so I see no reason why someone deserves extra money for doing their job with a smile.  I could go into the whole concept of tipping in an entirely different post -- let me know if you feel the need to debate.  And before you start arguing -- YES, I DO tip and I tip just fine. Anyway, back to the point -- I really appreciate and love good service.

The staff here was phenomenal.  Everyone was super friendly and approachable.  I asked for a recommenation -- should I get Okinawa or yam french fries?  The cashier responded with, "Actually, you should try purple fries and they are delicious with garlic aoili and rosemary salt." He really knew his stuff, offered up a suggestion, and was totally nice about it.  I couldn't say no to such a confident response, so it was the purple fries for me.  He also made sure I got to-go cups for whatever sauces I wanted.  When I saw the sauces and realized I wanted more, he had no problem getting more for me. 

Another awesome thing about BFC is the focus on the fries.  In fact, burgers are called "sides," which I think is hilarious. 

The reviewers on yelp seem to like BFC, but a lot had very high expectation and didn't think the french fries were the *best* they have ever tasted.  That may be the case -- I have had some damn good french fries, and I don't know if this knocked my socks off.  However, I liked this place because it was just so much fun!

Here is a link to the menu 

You choose among seven types of potatoes, and then you choose the cut (options vary depending on the potato).  I got a medium and it was a good amount of fries.  They have very few hamburger choices - when I was there, it was basically a beef, bison or veggie choice (with the veggie one getting rave reviews).  There was also a quinoa side salad, which I ordered.  It was only $3 and it was delicious!  The lettuce wasn't iceberg but a tasty mix of hearty spring greens, and the pear vinagrette was to die for.  In fact, my salad was almost gone by the time I got home (yes, I ate it with my hands!).

I got my fries and salad to go, but I would recommend scheduling some time to stay at BFC.  The fun part is in all the options once you get your fries.  There are TEN different fry sauces and what seemed to be about fifteen kinds of salt.  Some salts included cajun, horseradish, sea salt, vanilla, jalapeno, and garlic rosemary.  Some sauces included sweet mustard, blueberry, chipotle, garlic aoili, fry sauce and sour thai. 

They also have something for you real fancy people: the Bourgeois.  This includes their finest cut French fries fried in duck fat, garnished with truffle salt (for $8).

For my fries, I tried the garlic aoili and sour thai.  I have to be honest and say I didn't like the sour thai at all.  It seems to me like you could make some sort of delicious thai dipping sauce, but this just tasted off.  The garlic aoili was great, but a bit like dipping your fries into straight mayo (very thick).  I mixed it half and half with ketchup, and it was phenomenal. 

The rosemary garlic salt tasted great, but in hindsight, I wish I would have added more.

Regardless of how good the food is (mine was good) BFC is a really cool place because of it's novelty factor.  This would be great fun for kids or out-of-town visitors always giving you a hard time for Idaho "The Land of the Potatoes."  Finally, it is a bit expensive, so I would recommend meeting up with friends here for Happy Hour.  It is M-F, 4-6 pm, and buy one get one free on beer and small fries. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MOPS Chili

Even though I am leaving town tomorrow, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to make a huge pot of chili this morning.  Even though it may not have been the most practical thing, it was delicious and soooo easy.  I got the recipe from an old church cookbook, and it was submitted by Rochelle Cooper.  The book is full of really simple recipes and is one of those cookbooks where you just interpret things as you see fit.  I have listed the original recipe, and the changes I used (based on what I had on hand)

Here is the recipe.

1 can diced tomatoes - I prefer no salt added
1 can tomato sauce - again, I prefer no salt added
3.5 lbs beef chunk tender or beef tri-tip, sliced and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes - I used some beef I had left in the fridge (and only used about 1 lb)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil - I used sunflower oil
2 cans beef broth - I only used one
2 cans chicken broth - I used chicken stock.
1/2 cup dried minced or finely minced fresh onion - I chose dried (too lazy to chop)
3 tsp. granualated garlic (I assumed this meant garlic powder?)
3 to 9 Tbsp. chili powder - I used 3
2.25 Tbsp paprika
1 can green chilies, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper (I used cayenne and only 1/4 tsp)
Juice of a half fresh lime
1 lb bag dried kidney beans. 

1) You need to commit to making chili a day early, so you can soak the kidney beans overnight.  I soaked mine for only about eight hours (while I slept) and would recommend at least sixteen hours if you want your beans to be soft.  Mine were a bit raw even after being cooked.  Simply pour out the pound of beans, cover it with PLENTY of water, and let sit.  I use a huge bowl and pour in way more than you think necessary.  The beans will soak up an impressive amount of water.
2) When your beans are ready and it is chili-time, start by slicing up your beef.  You might already know this, but my mom taught me to slice it while still slightly frozen -- it slices much better.  
Then put about a tablespoon of the oil of your choice into a pan, and "brown" your meat.  I took this to mean cooking it completely, as I wanted to sample my chili as I went and not have to worry about any raw meat.

3)  Get out your big pot (recipe says 6qts) and toss the cooked meat into it.  Add this:

Aka a can of diced tomatoes, 3 cans of both (2 "cans" are in that chicken stock), your minced onion (1/2 cup equaled that entire container), and a teaspoon of the garlic powder.  Bring your chili to a slow boil and cook for about an hour.  After mine reached a boil, I put it on about a four (a little less than medium). 

4) Add this:
For the spices, I added 1 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp paprika, 3 Tbsp chili powder, and 2 tsp. garlic.
ALSO ADD YOUR KIDNEY BEANS NOW! Drain them before doing so (duh).

Cook all of this for about 45 more minutes (again I set my stove to about a 4).

5) Add:
Any additional chili powder (I didn't add any more), your cayenne pepper, the juice of half a lime (roll it around on the counter first) and 1.25 Tbsp cumin.  Simmer this an additional thirty minutes.

There you have it.  Chili that is actually REALLY healthy (all those spices each have some amazing benefits). 

*If you want to make the chili a little thinner, you can add another can of broth.

I like my chili with extra lime juice and curry powder.  So good!  And don't feel like you don't have enough time to make this...I threw mine together at 6:00 am, and even in the fog of sleep, it is very easy to do.  Most of the time it is just simmering away, and you can pay very little attention.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

#011 Best Place to Zen Out

Well I owe you all an apology for being quite the negligent blogger!  I am not even sure how it happened...but I feel like the last week has been super busy.  I have been going past my bedtime regularly (10 pm makes that easy to do) and my boyfriend was in town this weekend.  I promise to jump back on the blogger bandwagon, and the good news is I have tons of places to talk about.

Last night I went to the Idaho Botanical Gardens, (IBG) rated #011 Best Place to Zen Out.

The IBG is a beautiful garden that feels a bit like you might imagine the Secret Garden feels.  It looks small from the outside, but as you wander around, it seems to go on forever.  There are flowers, trees, benches, a wooden swing, a koi pond, and plenty of paths.  The garden is located adjacent to the Old Penitentiary, which gives it a slightly creepy but interesting vibe (in fact, one of the women we were with told us they rent out CELLS at the Old Penitentiary on Halloween night. How creepy would that be?).  One of the coolest things about the IBG is all the events they put on. 

Almost every Thursday in the summer (June 2nd to September 29th) they have outdoor concerts called "the Great Garden Escape."  I haven't made it to one yet, but I would love to check it out.  These concerts are a bit more expensive though.  It normally costs $5 for a non member to visit the garden, and these concerts are $10 ($7 for members). 

I love that the garden lets you bring your own food/drinks/alcohol.  I am not sure if that qualifies for every event, but we could bring anything we wanted when we went last night.

Last night we went to the first of the IBG Movies for a Cause.  Whoever did the movie selection did an excellent job.  Yesterday was Singing in the Rain, and we have The Princess Bride, Grease, and Casablanca to look forward to.  Surprisingly, I haven't seen The Princess Bride or Casablanca yet, so I am really excited to see them.

To go to the movies, you simply pay $5.  I thought that was a great price.  The atmosphere is awesome.  We had a light blanket each, low chairs, and a few pillows.  My friends packed an excellent picnic of Doritos Flamas (try them -- delicious), sandwiches, nectarines, and peanut butter and jelly bites.  I tried to provide my fair share by purchasing everyone a sno-cone (mostly to make up for the price of my chair).  We bought the super-jumbo $5 cups, because we can get refills at the other movies for $2.  I got Pink Lemon Sour with Mango flavoring, and it wasn't that good - ha! I am a bit of a sno cone specialist, and these were more the sno cone you get from the ice cream man, and certainly no shaved ice.  The ice was rock hard and you had to chip into it with your spoon.  Oh well though.  A bad sno cone is still better than no sno cone.

As for Singing in the Rain, I absolutely loved it! This is how a movie should be.  Funny, smart, entertaining...all around fabulous. 

 If you plan to go to any of the other movies, the movie started a bit after sundown, which was around 9:15 pm last night.  We got there around 8:00, but it was fun to hang out.  The gardens were open, which means we got to check them out for free.  There was a little labrinyth path laid out in the grass, and we got dizzy running around that for awhile.  There also weren't many people at the movies.  Attendance might increase once word catches on, but last night there were only a few families. 

The next movie is Wednesday, August 24th (The Princess Bride).  I don't think i can miss this one because apparently I am one of the only people in the world who hasn't seen this movie.  I always thought it was some girly movie, but I guess it is a movie boys like as well.  Then, I am going to have to think up some costume for Grease.  It is a singalong (the words will go across the screen) and they want to encourage people to dress up.  Who should I go as?? I am thinking John Travolta, but I am going to need to hone my thrifting skills.

I think one of the best parts of this movie series is I didn't have to worry at all about the set up! I used to assist at these type of events at my college, and it was awesome to be a spectator and not involved in the planning.  Yes, it was a bit weird and of course I missed that feeling of running the show, but it was also nice to be able to just relax.  As we were leaving, I couldn't help feeling bad for whoever had to stay and tear down. 

Definitely check out the IBG movie series.  I can't vouch for the other events, but this series is excellent and a great price.

Monday, August 1, 2011

#036 Best Burger

I flew out of town this weekend and got back into town around 4:00.  Similar to most times I fly, I was exhausted upon returning and nothing sounded better than a movie with some smuggled-in snacks.

I decided to check out Chef Lou's Westside Diner, rated #036 Best Burger.  The website is pretty awesome because it lists all sorts of deals, and there are also coupons, so check it out if you plan on eating there.

This place has a big reputation, as it was on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  It also seems like Chef Lou is known as a semi-celebrity chef in the Boise area, as I have even caught people at working talking about him.  I think all the hype has led people to be wary of Westside Diner, as many reviews on Yelp expressed reservations about visiting the place.

One unhappy reviewer says to watch out for the fish and steak fries as they have "waaaay too much batter and not enough fish/steak."  Another went to try out the milkshakes (as they have a sign advertising the best shakes in Boise) but found their peanut butter/chocolate milkshake "neither chocolatey or peanut buttery enough."  Another said their burger "tasted alright but was TINY....seriously the thinnest patty I have ever got."  Another claims the only thing they have ever eaten that was delicious there was the shake.   Finally, even the french fries don't seem to have much acclaim, as a reviewer found them "very disappointing." 

I think it is important to highlight all these negative reviews, as I went to a place seemingly rated as "best burger" but I don't eat hamburgers, so I didn't try it out.  I also didn't try much on the menu at all.  I was a bit disappointed I didn't get to try more, but I was trying to choose a small enough amount of food to leave room for a milkshake, and food that I could eat quickly and/or sneak into the movie theater.  

I ended up getting a small Cookie Monster milkshake and a small sweet potato fries.  I have to admit that the price did seem rather expensive.  For both, it was about $7.00 (I think the sweet potato fries were $3.29, meaning the milkshake was also around $3 something).  I usually complain that restaurants always have huge serving sizes, so normally I would be pleased that the milkshake small was actually fairly small.  However, I paid three dollars for it and I was hoping it would last for the majority of the movie, so it was disappointing my milkshake was a very small "small."

At first I thought I got the wrong milkshake, because it was blueberry flavor.  However, I discovered big chunks of cookie and slowly realized Cookie Monster must be some blueberry/cookie mixture.  I LOVED the milkshake (besides the size).  It was delicious with plenty of blueberry and plenty of cookie.  It was also the perfect consistency, as it was easy to suck up the straw, but it wasn't runny.

The sweet potato fries were also incredible.  There was a good size in the serving (it totally kept me full for a suitable amount of time).  They were also served PIPING hot.  In addition, they came with a cinnamon frosting that was one of the best dipping sauces I have been served with sweet potato fries.  It was like a cinnamon whipped butter that melted wonderfully on the hot fries. I don't think I have ever had better sweet potato fries.

I had previously thought of going to Westside Diner with my friends, but then thought that it wouldn't work for a group of people if we all had to sit in our cars and eat.  This is not actually the case.  There are plenty of little chairs and tables, and there is even shade to sit in (under table umbrellas).  You can sit in your car, or go to the pickup window, or hang out in the drive thru.

Overall, I thought my two items were phenomenal and I would totally go back and/or take someone again.  However, I wouldn't take my extremely frugal friends, as this place was absolutely on the more expensive side.  Maybe wait until you find a coupon you like and then go here to indulge.  Either way, it was fun to check out and I would love to go back (next time I am either getting a foccacia sandwich or a french dip...yum!).  They have a HUGE menu, so most people should be satisfied.  I don't get take out much, but if I did, I would probably go back and get it from this place.

My other favorite part was you get a fortune cookie with your meal :)  My fortune? Now is a lucky time for you. Take a chance.